Canonical Pursues Enterprise Customers with LTS Change
Canonical’s commitment to longterm support for Ubuntu just got longer, with businesses running Ubuntu on their desktops targeted as the chief beneficiaries. Here’s the scoop and what it says about Canonical’s strategy.
In a recent announcement, Canonical reported that Ubuntu 12.04, the next longterm support (LTS) version of the operating system and slated for release in April 2012, will receive official hardware-compatibility updates for two years and other updates for an additional three. Previously, desktop LTS versions of Ubuntu were supported only for three years, and non-LTS releases for one and a half years.
It goes without saying that this change will be welcome among individual Ubuntu desktop users eager to keep their systems up to date without having to upgrade to the latest LTS release. They can still choose to do that if they like, but now the lazy among us can continue to enjoy official support even on operating systems five years old.
This move also introduces greater parity between the desktop and server versions of Ubuntu, since the latter have always been supported for five years in their LTS iterations. In one sense, then, Canonical’s decision represents another step toward simplifying the Ubuntu brand, reducing some of the nuances between the multiple products which comprise the Ubuntu family.
Ubuntu in the Enterprise
But Canonical’s main goal, as its press release made clear, is to court corporate customers interested in running Ubuntu on enterprise desktops:
The move comes in response to increasing demand for Ubuntu desktops in corporate environments where longer maintenance periods are the norm. It brings the desktop product into line with Ubuntu Server which continues with five years of support for LTS releases.
The announcement also hinted at the importance of a longer LTS lifecycle for desktops to fostering relationships between Canonical and OEMs interested in building PCs for the enterprise market:
PC manufacturers can now standardise (sic) their business-focused range of PCs on an LTS release with a five year support period …
This shift thus underlines yet further the centrality of engagement with large enterprises to Canonical’s business strategy. It continues to pursue some revenue streams among non-commercial desktop users, namely Ubuntu One and services offered via the Ubuntu Software Center, but its chief financial backbone is set to become the enterprise.
In addition, it’s notable that Canonical has chosen to focus in this pursuit not only on servers but also on desktops. Plenty of other companies, including Red Hat, have built successful businesses selling Linux and Linux support for servers, but no major open source organization has become so heavily invested in shipping desktop Linux to enterprises.
Red Hat, for example, sponsors the desktop-oriented Fedora distribution but has shown little interest in using Fedora as anything other than a sandbox for testing technologies that might eventually make their way into server-focused Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Nonetheless, Canonical’s interest in the enterprise desktop appears to be paying off. Its press release referred (without citing specifics, unfortunately) to “unprecedented uptake” of Ubuntu on the desktops of Qualcomm and the municipality of Munich. Other organizations, like the French ministry of police, already have large Ubuntu deployments on their workstations.